9 creative ways to save on your grocery bills

There really are some clever ways to keep saving on regular purchases like groceries. Try these ideas on for size and see if they suit you.

By Carolyn Tate

Noticed your grocery bill going up lately? 

You’re not imagining it, and you’re far from alone. Finder’s Consumer Sentiment Tracker found that almost half of us (42%) say our grocery shopping is causing us financial stress - that’s 19% higher than it was three years ago.

Australia is one of the most expensive countries in the world to live in right now, with our cost of living ranked higher than 87% of the countries in the world. 

Our politicians in Canberra are investigating whether supermarkets are price gouging, as Finder reports that Australians spent an average of $532.20 per person on groceries in December 2023.

We’re paying 9% more for bread than we were a year ago, 11% more for eggs, and 6% more for seafood. That all adds up. Our one saving grace is fruit, which has gone down by 3.6%, but man and woman cannot live on fruit alone.

So, in the absence of having the power to influence global macroeconomics, how can we make clever changes to our supermarket shopping that can save us some significant bucks at the checkout? 

Citro has covered some clever lifestyle changes you can make to save money and advice on how to stop budget leaks.

You probably already know the shopping basics like:

  • Buy in bulk
  • Choose no-name generic brands (and check the unit pricing costs)
  • Don’t shop when hungry
  • Write a meal plan before you hit the supermarket

What we’re talking about in this article is some creative ideas to help your grocery dollar stretch further.

1. Embrace meatless Monday…and possibly Thursday or Saturday

Meat is unavoidably expensive, and there are loads of options when it comes to vegetarian, or even plant-based meals these days. 

The trick is to avoid falling into the trap of buying a whole lot of niche ingredients that you won’t use any other time. Keep it simple with Citro’s healthy recipes like:

Bonus: it’s also great for your heart health to ditch the meat occasionally! Read Professor Luigi Fontana’s 3 longevity recipes or find out more on Citro’s longevity guide.

2. Pare it back to basics and buy the raw ingredients

When it comes to groceries, the less work someone else has had to do to prepare your food, the cheaper you’ll find it is. 

Take pizza, for example: buying a prepared pizza isn’t cheap. Buying a pizza base, prepared pizza sauce, grated cheese and ingredients is better.

But buying the flour, water, yeast, salt, cheese, tomatoes to make the sauce, and toppings, is the most economical. And you’ll have enough to make pizzas for weeks at a time. 

This also goes for pasta, rice dishes, and baking.

3. Create your own co-op

If the idea of buying in bulk feels overwhelming because you’ll take a year to go through it all, invite your friends, family or neighbours to create a co-op with you. 

You can all chip in to buy groceries in bulk - either from your supermarket (CHOICE says Aldi is cheapest) or, for extra savings, from bulk suppliers like Costco

The added bonus with this idea is that you get to bring everyone together with each shop, to divide up everyone’s goods and have a fun social get-together at the same time.

4. Enlist AI for your meal plans

You could have several meals in your pantry, just waiting to be made, and not even know it. Try logging into ChatGPT or another AI engine and using this prompt:

"I have these ingredients: [list your ingredients]. What meals can I make with them?"

5. Get organised

Most of us have blind spots or black holes in our pantry or fridge, where food hides until we forget it’s there, then have to throw it out. 

This can lead to a huge amount of wastage - not to mention disgusting clean-outs! Investing in some inexpensive baskets, shelves and containers can help ensure you have complete visibility of your groceries, so nothing is ever ‘out of sight - out of mind’. 

These guides to organising your fridge and your pantry might help.

Another trick is to find a waterproof pen and labels and write “use me up first” on the food with use-by dates looming. Oz Harvest has great ideas to reduce food waste.

6. Embrace the bachelor’s handbag

Those barbecue chickens in plastic bags (colloquially known as bachelor’s handbags for the ease with which you can turn them into a meal) can stretch a long way. 

For about $12, you can make a chicken salad one day, pick chicken off the bones to make a fried rice or chicken pasta the next, and then boil the bones to make chicken stock for soup. It truly is a wonder-bird! 

Check out Citro’s healthy chicken and mushroom quinoa recipe or Taste’s guide for 50 ideas to use up leftover barbecue chicken.

7. Double everything

How does doubling your cooking save you money? 

It might seem counterintuitive, but making a double batch of meals that are freezable means you always have options available for those nights you can’t be bothered to cook. 

That means instead of ordering a $30 curry and having it delivered, you can pull one out of the freezer and have it ready before it could be delivered by a student on a bicycle. 

Faster AND cheaper: win!

8. Don’t ditch your fruit and veggies

Nothing needs to go to waste, and if you find you’ve got wilting greens in your crisper at the end of the week, make them into a soup or smoothie, pesto or pasta sauce, or throw them into a zip lock bag and keep it in the freezer. 

When you have a good collection, you can simmer it to make stock.

9. Grow your own produce from veggie scraps

Did you know you can grow your own vegetables from the produce scraps you’d normally compost or throw away? 

Those stems, butts and seeds from some of the fruits and vegetables you buy each week can be nurtured into a whole new crop with soil, water, and sunlight.

Break the cycle of paying regularly for things like lettuce, garlic, ginger, celery, herbs, capsicum, potatoes and strawberries, and grow them yourself. 

You can read more about fast-growing vegetables that are easy to grow or embrace the nutritional power of microgreens to grow on your kitchen bench.

There are plenty of guides online that can show you the ropes, like this one from Eating Well. Or, if you use Instagram, Armen Adamjan shares great video guides showing you how to make the most of your fruit and vegetables.

If you want to find ways to save on your grocery and other spending, try making a copy of Citro’s spending tracker spreadsheet, then use the information to analyse your spending and make changes.

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